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Photo llustration by Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images

Researchers at Duo Security have developed an algorithm to hunt Twitter bots at Twitter-sized scale.

Why it matters: On a big social media platform, using humans to hunt automated scam accounts is a particularly difficult game of whack-a-mole. That is exactly the kind of problem Duo's algorithm can help solve. One of the moles it whacked during a testing was a large network of cryptocurrency scammers.

Researchers Olabode Anise and Jordan Wright will present that research later this week at the Black Hat cybersecurity conference. Twitter was responsive when Duo's reported bots, they said.

The big picture: The sheer scope of the bot problem makes it difficult to fight — just ask Elon Musk, who had so many bots using his name to promote cryptocurrency scams that Twitter banned naming accounts after him.

  • The bots in question are unmanned accounts that automatically spew content onto Twitter.
  • Not all bots are malicious. Most aren't. "During testing, one of the things we discovered was a bot that posted song lyrics someone thought were interesting," Anise told Axios.
  • The algorithm does not separate good from evil, just human from machine. Real humans still need to make the final call.

How it works: Duo feeds publicly available data, like how quickly accounts reply to other accounts, screen names, the time of day of posting and data from profiles.

Go deeper

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director defends agency's response to pandemic — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden readies massive shifts in policy for his first days in office.
  3. Vaccine: Fauci: 100 million doses in 100 days is "absolutely" doable.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode again.
  5. Tech: Kids' screen time sees a big increase.
  6. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.
Dave Lawler, author of World
4 hours ago - World

Alexey Navalny detained after landing back in Moscow

Navalny and his wife shortly before he was detained. Photo: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny was detained upon his return to Moscow on Sunday, which came five months after he was poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok. He returned despite being warned that he would be arrested.

The latest: Navalny was stopped at a customs checkpoint and led away alone by officers. He appeared to hug his wife goodbye, and his spokesman reports that his lawyer was not allowed to accompany him.

Mike Allen, author of AM
7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden's "overwhelming force" doctrine

President-elect Biden arrives to introduce his science team in Wilmington yesterday. Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

President-elect Biden has ordered up a shock-and-awe campaign for his first days in office to signal, as dramatically as possible, the radical shift coming to America and global affairs, his advisers tell us. 

The plan, Part 1 ... Biden, as detailed in a "First Ten Days" memo from incoming chief of staff Ron Klain, plans to unleash executive orders, federal powers and speeches to shift to a stark, national plan for "100 million shots" in three months.

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